The Witness to Life procession began at Mother Seton Church in Germantown, Maryland, as about 80 people gathered after Mass on Dec. 4, and the line of people, including families with children, husbands and wives, young adults and senior citizens, wound about a block.
Praying the rosary and singing songs honoring Mary, they walked on a sidewalk along Father Hurley Boulevard and then along Wisteria Drive to an abortion clinic in an office park where six years ago, Dr. LeRoy Carhart began providing late-term abortions.
Those who prayed that afternoon for an end to abortion in their neighborhood and their country said their witness for all human life was a journey that had begun before that day and would continue afterward.
Joining the end of the line as the marchers began praying and singing outside the abortion clinic was Maria Gonzalez, who after Mass had gotten hot chocolate for her three daughters, ages 16, 12 and 6, as an inducement for joining her on the march on that slightly chilly fall afternoon.
“The opportunity reminded me of when my mom would take me to these things, how it (later) inspired me as a mother,” she said, adding that could be the beginning of them understanding the importance of what kind of people they will be, and she expressed hope that they would later witness to the value of life not only by their words but their actions.
Later, after the marchers had returned to the church and concluded by singing and praying there, Gonzalez said that in a way, her life had come full circle that day. Gonzalez held a simple rosary made of knotted string that her mother had made for her, a rosary that she had held in her hands six years earlier and prayed with as she had gone into labor with her youngest daughter.
That rosary now dangles from her family van, but on that day, Gonzalez took it with her, and her now-6-year-old daughter held it as she joined her mother and sisters on the procession. “She’s marching holding this rosary six years later, as a witness she’s a valid child of God and her life matters,” Gonzalez said, adding that her middle daughter thanked her afterward for convincing them to join the procession.
“This is character building, making them great women for their family, like my mom did for me,” Gonzalez said.
Sachy Orr-Gonzalez, her husband Harry and their two sons, ages 12 and 8, and 6-year-old daughter also had joined the procession. Harry Orr-Gonzalez has a brain tumor and uses a wheelchair now, which his wife pushed as they joined the procession to the clinic and then back to the church to offer prayers for the dignity of life.
She said they marched with their three children that day to offer a witness “that life is so precious, and to speak for those who have no voice.” Through her husband’s illness, she said their faith has grown stronger and brought them closer to Christ.
The procession also offered them the chance to demonstrate their belief in the power of prayer. “Through prayer, anything is possible,” Harry Orr-Gonzalez said.
At the Mass before the procession, Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville in his homily said, “We believe in life. We believe in love. We believe in solidarity.”
Prayer, the bishop said, can move mountains and change hearts.
After the homily, prayers were also offered for the homeless, the poor, immigrants and all those at the margins of society, that people will see the face of Christ in them and help provide for their needs.
As the group stopped for a few moments to pray and sing outside the clinic, Father Lee Fangmeyer, the pastor of Mother Seton, prayed that God’s love and mercy would transform the hearts of all those involved in abortion, including the mothers seeking abortions, and the abortionists who perform the procedures.
“We pray that those considering abortion may be given enough support and help to say ‘yes’ to their child,” he said, adding, “We ask that God’s grace will be here…May our ‘yes’ help them.”
Helping to lead the praying of one of the decades of the rosary was Susan Mondoa, 13, who was joined by her younger brother and by her parents, who had gone to Mass that day and decided afterward that their family should join the procession.
“Life is important,” Susan Mondoa said. Her father Karl Mondoa added that the prayerful procession offered their family a chance to “give a witness to the community of where we stand.”
Mary Forr, the director of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Department of Life Issues, said before the procession began, “In this time of Advent when we celebrate the birth of a child changing the history of mankind, it’s important we witness to the dignity of life from conception to natural death.”
Across the street from the clinic, Ellen Curro opened the door to Germantown Pregnancy Choices, a pro-life pregnancy referral center, where she serves as a consultant and helps train volunteers. She noted that Dr. Carhart had not been seen at the clinic in many weeks, and late-term abortions had apparently not been performed there during that time, but she added that there is concern that in the new year, the late-term abortions may resume at the clinic, perhaps done by a new abortionist. For the past six years, people have gathered nearby along Wisteria Boulevard on Monday mornings to pray for an end to abortion.
“We have got to pray and mobilize others to pray,” said Curro, the former director of the Shady Grove Pregnancy Center who once led the archdiocese’s Project Rachel outreach promoting post-abortion healing. “It’s a spiritual battle beyond belief.”
That point was echoed by Forr, whose office is planning the archdiocese’s Jan. 27 Youth Rally and Mass for Life at the Verizon Center preceding the annual March for Life in Washington. “It’s extremely important we keep praying,” she said.